The New Threat of Very Accurate Missiles

(Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University) Dr. Max Singer - New technology controls a warhead's accuracy not by improving the precision of the missile's launch, but by guiding the missile's warhead as it approaches its target. "Terminal guidance," as this technology is known, can enable warheads to be delivered over very long distances and to hit within meters of their aim-points. Precision-guided missiles make it possible to threaten decisive damage with a small number of non-nuclear weapons. They can have a strategic effect that is comparable in important ways to that of nuclear weapons. Terminal guidance technology is now beginning to spread among smaller powers. It is reasonable to expect that over the next twenty years, some smaller countries that do not possess medium-range missiles might acquire such missiles with terminal guidance. If terminal guidance technology spreads to more countries (and possibly to terrorist groups), we will be living in a new world as these countries and groups will have the ability to inflict decisive damage. Countries in possession of precision-guided missiles can't kill as many people as with nuclear weapons, but they can still produce many casualties and cause significant strategic damage. Israel, unfortunately, has been the first to enter this new world of precision-guided missiles. It faces at least two enemies that already have this capability, or are likely to have it within the next few years (Iran and Hizbullah). Someday, Hamas might also acquire such weapons. Israel is not helpless before this new threat. Enemy missiles can be deterred, or destroyed on the ground, or stopped by missile defenses. And the amount of damage, particularly in terms of human casualties, caused by these missiles can be drastically reduced by civil defense. The writer, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is co-founder of the Washington-based Hudson Institute.

2016-08-10 00:00:00

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